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Barratry is the act of encouraging lawsuits between others in order to create legal business for one’s personal gain and profit. Barratry is illegal in all U.S. states. Attorneys who are found guilty of barratry will be subject to criminal punishment or discipline by the state bar. They could also lose their license to practice law. 

Barratry includes attorneys looking for victims in hospitals to generate business income, as attorneys are prohibited from soliciting employment through live person-to person contact. Attorneys who follow victims and solicit them for business are most commonly referred to as “ambulance chasers.”

Barratry can also be done for harassment purposes. One form of this is strategic lawsuits against public participation, also known as SLAPP suits. SLAPP suits can be used to intimidate and silence criticism by bringing an expensive, baseless lawsuit against opponents. Plaintiffs often know their claim is baseless and will not result in a victory, but they hope to scare their opponents and others from criticizing them any further through the legal process. Several states have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes to avoid these kinds of lawsuits from burdening the legal system and to protect freedom of speech.  

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]